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Monday, April 28, 2014

How to Evangelize? Be like Bacon.

If this doesn't draw you in, I don't know what will

If we want to evangelize well, we have to be like bacon.

            Whew, I’m glad I got that off my chest. 

            I’m serious though.  Who doesn’t love bacon?  In it exists my two aspects of my favorite foods. It’s fried. It’s salty.  Mmm, the crispiness, the juxtaposition with the eggs and toast or rice (yes, I’m Filipino).  Just the experience of making bacon is one of my all-time favorite things to do.  I developed a ritual in Costa Rica that has continued to almost every weekend back in the states, where I’ll take one of the Saturday or Sunday mornings and make a hot breakfast.  I’ll pop in “Ben Harper” Pandora station, and I’ll let the sizzling of bacon make the rest of the music.  There’s nothing like the wafting smell of bacon in the air, drawing anyone within a mile radius to the kitchen.  After flipping the bacon and putting it aside on a towel-covered plate, I’ll drain the oil, leaving a little bit to cook my eggs in, usually a fried, sunny side up.  Salt, pepper, cover that baby up with a lid.  Boom, there’s nothing like it.

            You may be asking, “OK, we get it, Matt, you have a weird infatuation with bacon, but how is it like evangelization again?”  Ah, I’m glad you asked.  I believed we’re called to be like bacon in three ways.  Here we go:

#1: Bacon is authentically good in all things 
No matter what bacon is in, it always makes the meal better.  What would make that egg and biscuit better? Bacon.  What about that cheeseburger?  Bacon.  That lettuce, tomato, and bread?  Bacon.  Catholic comedian Jim Gaffigan even jokes that Kevin Bacon’s name must have helped with his acting career.  The point is, bacon is the same goodness whether it’s in the morning with pancakes or wrapping your shrimp at a cocktail dinner. 
            The same has to be for us.  If we call ourselves Christians, we have to be authentically Christian in all aspects of our life---not just during church, but throughout our entire week.  We used to have a saying in my college brotherhood, Esto Vir, that a man who kneels at the pew must be the same man who sits at the bar stool.  Meaning, we can’t be praying one way at church, then living another when we think no one is looking.  Hypocrisy kills the image of a Christian. 

#2: Bacon draws people to itself by its natural sizzle
            The smell and sizzle of bacon will wake up anyone who wants to sleep in.  I know it did for my housemates two years ago when they’d come strolling into my breakfast magic.  Bacon draws people in just by being bacon.  Think about the people in your life that you enjoy being around or spending time with.  Perhaps it’s their smile, their sense of peace or joy, or the feeling that you can be yourself and relax around them.  And where does that come from?
            Jesuit Fr. James Martin says we can answer that question by asking another one, “Think about the most joyful person that you know.  Now, also think about the holiest person that you know.  Is it not the same person?”  When I heard him say that I thought about my mom in both instances.  I am convinced it’s her joy, sprouted from her holiness and love for God, that makes people drawn to her. 
            Even if you don’t believe in “holiness,” think about the most attractive people in your life.  Not, “oh, whoa she’s hot” kind of attractive, but that intangible attractive “I-want-to-bring-her-home-to-my-mother” attractiveness.  There’s a certain “goodness” about that woman, isn’t there?  Why do so many young women find seminarians attractive?  Is it their hair?   Some may not know it, but I believe it has to do with their goodness, their holiness, and love for God that draws them.
            When Mary, the Mother of Jesus, visits Elizabeth, her cousin instantly knows that Jesus is (literally) within her.  A piece of her (John within her womb) even leaps for joy.  We may not all be on a second trimester with the Son of Man, but Jesus can be within us.  Can people tell?  Do we make others leap for joy when we visit them?  Or are we as Pope Francis recently described in his Joy of the Gospel, the Catholic that looks like we just came from a funeral?           

#3: Bacon draws people in, but it’s not the full meal.
What will really fill us up
            Now, some big bacon lovers will try to convince me here that one can eat bacon as a meal in itself.  I say that’s a greasy stomachache ready to happen.  Regardless, it’s good to attract people to us, but we have to remember it’s all for the greater glory of God.  He’s the fuller meal that sustains all of us in the Breaking of Bread at the altar at Mass---Jesus the Eucharist.  This is a good reminder for those of us who desire to see a friend or family member convert their hearts to Christ.  We don’t perform that miracle, God does.  You don’t want them to change for you, you want them to change for God, and that’s His business.
            In fact, I just listened to a talk that’s about a married women who wishes her husband would be more into prayer.  She was trying for years until she finally heard from God, “This would go a lot faster if you got out of the way.”  She responded by not preaching to him and talking about Church anymore.  Instead, she continued to love him fervently and treated him well despite his continuous apathy, even teasing.  Two years later, her husband came around to prayer, and their marriage became more joyful and stronger than ever.

One last note…

Bacon is sacrificial. 
            There was once a chicken and a pig who lived on a farm together. The farmer treated both really well.  In return, the two wanted to do something nice for him.
            The chicken said, “Let’s make him breakfast.”
            “That sounds good,” replied the pig.
            “Oh, I heard he loves eggs and bacon!” said the chicken.  “What do you think?”
            The pig stepped back.  “Easy for you to say.  While you’re making a contribution, I’m making a real commitment!”

            When it comes to being authentically Catholic, I say we’ve got to be like pigs in this case ---we’re all in.  Ever met a lukewarm person?  Someone who does things half-(butt), puts in a little bit of work, the could’ve-dove-for-the-ball but didn’t.  How attractive are they? 
            And at the end of the day, isn’t it worth to give our all for the Man who literally gave His entire all for us? 

            Be authentically bacon.  Sizzle and draw people in.  Give people a taste of the real goodness.   And in the end, the sacrifice we make will never compare to His.